We are so excited to be back in the swing of the year and restart our weekly allyship tips. In the spirit of starting the year with resolutions for change, we share this list of resolutions for all of us to become better allies. While not exhaustive, this list can help us keep our advocacy and allyship grounded in the needs and perspectives of marginalized communities.
“I will continuously engage in self-reflection.”
Whether you are completely new to the concept of allyship or if you’ve been striving toward being an ally for some time: we all must examine our preconceptions, biases, and beliefs about the world. Embedded in our socialization into the world are prejudicial views that do not always surface in explicit, easily identifiable ways and often go through the process of reinforcing themselves when they go unquestioned (see “The Cycle of Socialization”). An easy place to begin the reflective process is to ask yourself “where did this thought come from?” when you are responding to people unlike yourself. Project Implicit has tools to help all of us uncover our “hidden” biases and start the process of destabilizing oppressive narratives about marginalized communities. We must also take time to unpack our “motivations” for allyship, avoiding allyship motivated by a need to make oneself feel better or because you think you can “save” a marginalized community (an example of this is the “white savior”).
“I will continue to educate myself about the experiences of others, from their point of view.”
We can literally never know how other people live and experience this world unless we go out of our way to seek out their voices. A fundamental step of allyship is educating yourself, not only about societal histories of oppression and violence but also about the stories that have been erased by these systems. Learn new language to describe systems of oppression and learn more about their histories. As much as you invest in reading empirical evidence of oppression, also seek out media that represents the personal stories of those who do not share your identities. There are plenty of resource guides and recommendations about media (movies, podcasts, TV, memoirs, etc.) relating to women, People of Color, LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, and other communities – take time to look up resources about communities outside your own. We can further develop our allyship skills by moving past a singular vision of oppression to recognize the intersecting relationship of sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and other systems of oppression in our world.
“I will take daily actions to change my behavior and environment to become more inclusive.”
As Phillips (2020) said, “activism can’t begin and end with a hashtag.” Being an ally requires that we step up from simply talking about injustice and oppression. Start by actively supporting those around you who hold marginalized identities. Nominate a colleague for an award or promotion; routinely celebrate your friend’s accomplishments; holistically mentor a student with an identity that is underrepresented in your field. Going a step further, spend your time/money/material resources to support marginalized communities, such as through non-profits by and for a community. Another place to start is language, interrogating common, problematic phrases and taking time to unpack how we communicate about others. Are you being intentional to not dehumanize, stereotype, or speak over marginalized communities when talking about oppression? Lastly, we can all promote to changing the world by encouraging and supporting others to become allies. Without taking time to try and educate others, our allyship cannot reach as far as we’d like. Regardless of what action you take to become a better ally, remember that what we do when no one is looking is just as important as when they are looking. People with marginalized identities cannot hang up their identity or take a break from systems of oppression, so committed allies should be acting/advocating for equity all the time.
“I will act with humility, accept accountability, and listen to critique of my allyship.”
Learning to accept accountability – that is, to admit and make up for our mistakes – is critical to becoming a better ally. When we say accountability, we don’t mean becoming morose and feeling guilty for what has happened. It means putting the other person (or community) first, as the one harmed by our actions, and doing what we must to practice restorative justice. When we act with humility as allies (Crookshank, 2016), not centering our thoughts or feelings about allyship (Hill, 2020), it creates space for us to listen better when we have done something harmful and makes our actions as allies more meaningful. In some cases, it is as simple as saying “I’m sorry” and correcting behavior and/or language in the moment (saying “I’m sorry” is an important act in itself; White, 2020); in others, it is about listening to critique and going through the process of self-reflection, education, and growth. As an ally, you cannot expect nor demand forgiveness/grace from marginalized communities (including if you share a marginalized identity, such as white women’s accountability to Women of Color). If you are committed to being an ally, then you are committed to listening to marginalized communities when they tell you that you have stopped being one – otherwise, your allyship is performative (Asare, 2021).
Weekly Resource Recommendations
- Book:Is Everyone Really Equal? An Introduction to Key Social Justice Concepts – Özlem Sensoy and Robin DiAngelo provide basic background on important social justice concepts.
- Video:A guide to lifelong allyship – Catherine Hernandez discusses what it means to continuously practice allyship in all aspects of life.
- Article:When black people are in pain, white people just join book clubs – Tre Johnson discusses the lackluster allyship of white people that has no follow-through for dismantling racism – an important reminder on digging deep for all allyship.
- Podcast:Active Allyship… it’s more than a #hashtag! – This podcast series hosted by Sunni Dayz and Lisa Davis feature short episodes on all kinds of topics around social justice and equity.
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